Harry Potter and buttermilk pie crust

Ever notice how what you’re reading influences what you eat and cook, or what you WANT to eat and cook?

I finally started reading Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone to my two older kids this weekend, and oh my goodness. SO. MUCH. FUN. Only a couple chapters into the first book and they are already picking up on the challenges of making good choices, courage, the reality that adults don’t always get it right, that life isn’t fair, and that doing the right thing is always the right thing.

And the food . . . Rowling got it. I love how she details food.
Bags of stale crips.
A can of tomatoes on toast for breakfast.
Fried bacon.
A package of squishy sausages in Hagrid’s pocket.
Candy and sweets with so many odd names and flavors I can’t even remember them all at the moment. Except those jelly beans of all different flavors—because Jelly Belly, obviously, have jumped on that train.
I need to write about food in my own stories some more . . .

Today is about pie, though. Rowling’s description of the pies and tarts at the Hogwart’s feast got me itching to try a new pie crust recipe I’ve been thinking about. Plus I made butter again this weekend, so there is both icy cold buttermilk and fresh butter in my fridge waiting for experimentation.

Hope you had a great weekend, friends.
Here’s to good books and good food.

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup butter, chilled and diced
1/4 cup chilled buttermilk

In a food processor, whirl the butter, flour, and salt until crumbly. Then, one teaspoon at a time, add the buttermilk until a dough forms. The trick here is not to overwork the dough or let it get warm. You don’t want the butter melting into the dough, but rather staying rather crumbled within it—those butter bits are what will make the dough flaky when it bakes.

Note: these measurements make a single crust, so you’ll need to double the recipe for a top and bottom crust.

I prefer using wax paper or parchment paper to roll out pasty dough because it means I don’t have to try and scrape it from my counter top or risk over-flouring it. Also, refrigerate whatever dough you aren’t currently working with.

Lay the bottom crust in the plate and add the filling of your choice (I’m going with apple, cheddar, and sweet-potato today).

Roll out the top crust as you did with the bottom, fit over top the pie, trim any excess around the edges and crimp.

Bake at 350 degrees until golden brown across the top and bubbling. About 40 minutes or so. Allow to cool before cutting so the juices can re-incorporate.

For a full tutorial on how I use wax paper and crimping, check out my earlier pie crust recipe tutorial. —Different recipe, same method. 🙂

Sour Cream and Buttermilk Banana Muffins with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

You know when you set out to do something super healthy in the kitchen and then it goes completely sideways? My mission: Greek Yogurt Banana Bread. The final outcome: Sour Cream and Buttermilk Banana Muffins (with chocolate chips) and Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.


Also, this brings up a very important question:
At what point does a muffin become a cupcake?
I would like an answer to this or I may not sleep tonight.

I can promise you though, every muffin/cupcake calorie accrued in these incredibly tasty healthy-turned-not-so-much treats earned me glowing smiles, shining eyes, and beaming praise from my people. So I’m going to say it was a successful mission. And hey, there are many different kinds of healthy. My heart was very healthy yesterday. Lots of hugs, sticky kisses, and frosting-bedecked cheeks to smooch. So it’s all good.



1 cup butter (2 sticks) softened
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup white sugar
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup sour cream
1/2 cup buttermilk (make your own!)
2 cups flour
1 cup chocolate chips (white chocolate chips would be amazing too!)

In a large mixing bowl or using a stand mixer combine butter, vanilla, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, sour cream, and buttermilk. Blend until smooth and all of the ingredients are incorporated. Add flour and chocolate chips and blend again. Scoop batter into greased (but un-lined) muffin tins and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown around the edges and across the tops. Roughly 15 minutes, but adjust time accordingly as every oven is a little different.

Remove muffins from baking tin and allow to cool. While they are cooling, you can mix up the frosting.


3/4 cup frosting
2 teaspoons vanilla
2 cups (or so) powdered/confectioner’s sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream

Soften butter and whip with vanilla. Add powered sugar using hand or stand mixer and adjust consistency of the frosting, alternating with cream and sugar, until all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the frosting is to your liking.

Frost muffins/cupcakes generously and sprinkle with raw sugar crystals.

yogurt pancakes

I’m not a breakfast person. The ratio of breakfast recipes to dinner recipes on this site speaks clearly to that. And yes I’ve read the research. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day.
Yada-yada-yada. Even so. No.
Coffee. I’m all about coffee.
Coffee is my breakfast.
Coffee is my love language.
Unfortunately my kids won’t drink the stuff.
So there are things like poached eggs on toast. Sweet potato hash with sausage. Spiral-skillet apples. And these pancakes. —Buttery, light but heavy with yogurt, slightly sweet. Ultimately, the perfect breakfast for a lazy weekend.



2 1/2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon sugar
2 cups whole milk
3/4 cup greek yogurt
2 eggs
2 tablespoons butter

Start by melting the butter in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, sugar, salt and whisk well. Add the baking powder and whisk again until frothy. Finally, whisk in the yogurt. (Greek Gods Honey-Vanilla flavor is my favorite for this recipe!) When everything is well combined add the milk and flour, stirring until the whole mixture is well blended without lumps.

Heat a large griddle or flat-bottom pan over med-high heat and melt a little butter in the bottom of the pan to prevent the pancakes from sticking. Using a 1/3 or 1/4 measuring cup to measure out the batter for each cake, cook one side until it bubbles, flip, and cook the other side until golden brown. Top with your favorite flavor of deliciousness. Jam, syrup, fresh fruit, yogurt, or as one dear friend of mine showed me: peanut butter, maple syrup, and whipped cream. (Decadent!)


pizza crust

I have ambitious plans this summer for making an outdoor pizza oven in our backyard. I’ll be blogging the DIY plans and process when I get that far. But until then, I have to content myself with perfecting my pizza crust recipe. Which, happily, feels close enough to perfect to share with you!

This recipe has a dash of sugar, but if you’re trying to stay clear of the sweet stuff, leaving it out will be of no great consequence.



2 cups water (quite warm, but not hot)
3 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons sugar
4 tablespoons olive oil
5 cups flour

*makes enough dough for two small/medium size pizzas (average-crust thickness) or one large thick-crust pizza.

In a large bowl, vigorously whisk warm water and yeast together until yeast has dissolved and the mixture is frothy. Add salt, sugar, and oil and whisk again until sugar and salt have dissolved. one cup at a time, add in flour until the final cup, which will need to be kneaded into the dough on a floured countertop.

If you have a stand mixer, use a dough hook for the last two cups of flour and let it do the hard work for you.

Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes, covered, before trying to form your crust. Otherwise it’s just a little too stretchy for rolling out, or if you’re more skilled than I, tossing.

toward courage

“I wish I could go back,” he said. “And undo all of my mistakes.”

We were cuddling before bed. Story time was over, he was getting sleepy, and then he throws down this one and I’m suddenly caught between nostalgia for my soon-to-be-ten-year-old and the worst case of parenting guilt I’ve felt for a while.

What on earth?! Dude is nine years old. What mistakes has he made that there is anything to regret? And what have I done as his mother to ensure this kind of pressure for perfection? I gulped.

“Mistakes? What do you mean Bud? What mistakes do you wish you could go back and undo?”
“That time I hit you.” He said. “And that time I didn’t catch my sister when she fell down the stairs. Those kinds of things.”

We were silent for a little while, each of us contemplating. I was desperately trying not to get swallowed up by my own conviction that once again I was failing this kid. And I knew he was mentally listing all the other things he wanted to undo.
I took a deep breath.

“Know what?”
“I have a list of things I wish I could go back and undo too.”
“Oh yah. REALLY. None of us are perfect. Only God is perfect.”
My sweet red-head nodded.
“It must be nice not to make mistakes.”
“Someday we will be done making them. But until then, we get to learn from them.”
“Yes,” I said. “Every mistake we make is an opportunity to learn and do something different next time. And you, Kiddo, are one of the best learners I’ve ever met.”
“Really. And I’m so proud of you.”

I kissed him goodnight and he was sleeping in seconds, but I couldn’t stop revisiting his words and wondering—wondering—wondering what I was doing wrong that this thought would be anchored in the heart of my nine year old.

I wish I could go back and undo all my mistakes.

I told a girlfriend about it over drinks one night and tearfully confessed to feeling terribly inadequate to parent this kid—I felt like I was failing him. That perhaps somehow I had created an expectation for perfection. Something I had vowed never to do to to my kids.

She smiled and squeezed my hand.
“You’re taking too much credit,” she said. “And I mean that in the kindest way possible. You don’t get to be responsible for all his winnings or successes any more than you get to be responsible for all of his failings or shortcomings. We could be the best moms in the whole world and never make a mistake with our kids only to have them make their own horrible choices and ruin their lives. Also, we could be the worst moms ever and have our kids turn out absolutely amazing!”

I thought about that and then nodded, tearfully. She was right.
“I see you doing the best you can,” she continued. “And that is all any of us can do.”

All week I’ve been thinking about this. About doing my best. Not taking too much credit (for either the good or the bad) and loving my people well. —Not toward perfection, but toward something else. Toward courage, I guess. Courage to be honest and vulnerable and able to make the sort of mistakes that allow us to learn, and then forgive ourselves.

This isn’t a parenting blog, it’s a blog about food, mostly. And some writing. And doing right by both. But I’m also a mom. My kitchen is messy and my heart is messy, so I’m going to take one post a week—a weekend post—and blog about what it means, for me, to live bravely in all of the messes. As a mom, a wife, and a home cook. And maybe you’ll find a word or two that encourages you. We’re in this together, after all. This thing called life. Around and around and around the sun we go . . .

So here’s to messy kitchens and messy hearts. This is the stuff courage is made of. Take this brand new week to live in that direction. Mistakes and all, because they’re simply opportunities to learn and live bravely.

Be well!


fire-roasted cream-of-tomato-soup

I love food with history—food that invokes a memory, both with its preparation and its enjoyment. This particular soup recipe comes with story and memory and a long history for me. It was passed down from my great-grandmother, to my grandmother, to my mother, and to me. It has some inherited some variations along the way, specifically in regard to the tomatoes.

(It can be easier to pick up a couple cans at the grocery than it is to head down to the cellar and grab a couple jars off the shelf from last summer’s canning session —as my great-grandmother did. I love canning and tomatoes are definitely on that list, but for this recipe, feel free to get yours at the grocery store, unless you happen to have a few Ball canning jars of summer’s bounty tucked away).

I have this distinct memory of my mom with her hands on her hips, my sisters and I lined up in front of her, while the classic question was posed:
“What should we have for lunch, girls?”
I was probably no more than nine or ten at the time. But I remember the smile on her face when she suggested, with a mysterious grin, “How about Cream-of-tomato soup?”
At that point, we had never had cream of tomato soup, but the look on her face told us it would be wonderful, so we agreed happily and helped as she pulled out a saucepan, a couple cans of tomatoes, whole cream, garlic, onion, butter, and cheese. And I distinctly remember thinking, this is how memories are made.
So from my family to yours,

3 cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons clarified butter
1 teaspoon diced garlic
1 teaspoon diced onion
3 cups vegetable broth
2 tablespoons balsamic vinaigrette
3/4 cup cream
salt and pepper to taste

In a sauce pan melt butter over med-high heat. Add the garlic and onion and simmer until both caramelize and begin to brown. Open tomatoes and empty all three in the the pan with the garlic, onion, and butter. Stir to combine. Add broth and heat through. Turn off heat and balsamic and cream. Stir and taste. Adjust salt and pepper to liking.
Serve hot the grated cheddar on top (and with a side of grilled cheese!)

Cashew Butter

Back to snacking—I started posting about some favorite snacks last week, so let’s return to that subject. Because Snacks. It’s hard to go without a few in the course of a day, and making healthy snacking choices can be tough when you are SO TIRED OF BANANAS. (Bananas are the go-to snack at my house). So. Enter cashew butter and apple slices. Think: Carmel apple dip, only with nut butter. NomNomNom.

I started making all of my own nut butter back in September after reading an article about what kind of miscreant ingredients are contained in a typical jar of Skippy. And considering that we go through a large jar of peanut butter in about a week at my house, (lots of PB&J) a change was needed.

Nut butter is expensive no matter which way you spin it, because nuts in general are expensive. But if you can buy them in bulk, this will save you a bit. Cashews are my favorite nut, so cashew butter has become my nut-butter of choice. But you can make any flavor of nut butter with this method.

You will need a food processor for this job.

1 lb. of your favorite nuts, roasted.
1 tsp sea salt
2 teaspoons coconut oil

In a food processor, toss the roasted nuts, salt, and spoon the coconut oil on top. Snap the cover tightly into place, and whirl on high for about 3-5 minutes. This process is kinda noisy, so warn your little people or pets if they get nervous around loud noises.
When the butter is smooth, scrape into a sealable container. Refrigerate.
1 lb. of roasted nuts makes approximately 1 quart of nut butter.

packing lunches for picky eaters and those with texture sensitivities

There are a lot of options for school lunches in the blog world these days! Vegan, Bento box, Paleo, nut free, Gluten free, sugar free, lunches for busy families, lunches for minimalists . . . I even found a post on how to pack a lunch for your pet.
So there you go.


I know the world probably doesn’t need another blog post on school lunches, but if you have a picky eater or two in your home, especially for Littles that deal with texture sensitivities or food aversion, then maybe this will come in handy.

My kids are picky eaters.
Like whoa.
My oldest kiddo has severe texture sensitivity issues that have taken a long time to work through. And we are far from done. If he decides he can’t eat something, he can. not. eat it. *cue gagging and worse*
My second oldest has general food aversion issues. If it looks strange, smells strange, is the wrong shape, color, or texture, comes in a new box, or no box at all, then these are good reasons to be less-inclined to eat. At all. Many a meal has been skipped at my house because I cannot force food down throats.
These issues continue to stretch me as a mom. —My patience, and my creativity at mealtimes. I’ve heard all the advice, read all the books, and believe me, I’ve tried it all. It can be devastating, heartrending, to work hard at feeding your people only to have them go hungry by choice. Parents work to meet basic needs. It’s part of our job, and when we can’t do our jobs no matter how hard we try, it gets discouraging.
So maybe, if you’ve ever found yourself dealing with yet another untouched plate, or lunch box full of uneaten food (because it wasn’t hard enough to get up at the butt crack of dawn and pack the darn thing only to have no one eat it!) then just maybe, something you find here will be useful.

Here’s how I plan school lunches.
1. Pack the night before when my brain is caffeinated. (Most mornings even my coffee needs coffee before I can walk straight).
2. Make a list of foods I know the kids will eat. (It’s a short list so this doesn’t take long).
3. Do the prep work (cutting, slicing, building sandwiches, filling beverage containers, etc).
4. Write a note. (“I love you, child! EAT YOUR FOOD. —Mom”

I try and build school lunches by rotating several main foods I know my kids will eat/tolerate.
• Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.
• Turkey sandwiches.
• Mac-N-Cheese.
• Egg-Salad sandwiches.
• Cheese quesadillas.
I realize none of the above are going to win blue-ribbons on health food lists, but I make what I can from scratch, use wheat bread*, real peanut butter and homemade jam, etc. There are always options if you can get your kids to accept them. (*Wheat bread is tricky with my second-oldest because she refuses to eat nuts/seeds/oatmeal/flax/grain, or any other such addition in her bread).

Once I’ve decided on the main meal ingredient, I choose sides based on texture, keeping food groups in mind.
• Crunchy: Popcorn, crackers, etc., or Carrots, Apples, Celery with peanut butter and raisins, etc.
• Creamy/Smooth: Yogurt, cheese sticks, pudding, applesauce, banana, etc.
• Small Pieces: Raisins, Fish crackers, cheerios, grapes, pretzels, etc.
• Something new: (This is a difficult one because this food often comes back home untouched in my kids’ lunch boxes. But I keep trying anyway. (Try try again. Solidarity, friends). This category can include pretty much anything. Lunch meat cut up in slices and paired with cheese and crackers. A vegetable cut up in small pieces and made to look interesting with toothpicks as eating utensils. —Same with new fruits, like mango or kiwi. New crackers, nuts, or dried fruit. You name it. If they’ve not eaten it before, give it a shot.
• A treat: This is a wild card for me. If their lunch is already packed full of sugary foods, I skip it. But it’s called a “treat” for a reason, and if I want to throw a little something extra in their lunches, a homemade cookie, brownie, pudding cup, or the like goes a long way in the smile department.
• Beverage: Lots of schools provide milk (1%) as an option, but due to the fact that getting my kids to consume enough calories is a struggle, I prefer to give them whole milk. I usually skip juice/gatorade/etc because these are mostly full of empty calories anyway.

• The more dainty/intricate/interesting food looks, the more readily my kids will eat it. Or at least try it.
• Give up the crust battle. I cut the crusts off bread because it means my kids will consume more sandwich in the long run.
• Peel all the things. Apples, oranges, hard-boiled eggs, etc. If it takes too much work, kids won’t bother. Same with excessive wrappers or packaging.
• Add food dye (as long as it’s not an allergy issue!) My second-born adores anything pink and will happily drink her milk if it contains a drop of two of red food coloring. Same with my first born in regard to the color green. Actual food containers: same story. Use color to your advantage.

Lastly, write a note. Nothing makes a meal more palatable (to ANYONE) than knowing that whatever the heck it is, it was made with love.

Happy packing and good luck!